IEP’s are legally binding documents. We meet as a team at least annually to discuss progress and areas for opportunity and we create a plan based on the data presented to the team. A lot of time and effort and even emotion goes into writing this plan so that the student, our child, can make progress in the area’s they are struggling in.
But sometimes…. The IEP isn’t followed and it can feel really frustrating as a parent.
The good news is that there is A LOT we can do to fix this situation and none of the things I’m going to tell you about include fighting with the school. If you’ve read your state’s procedural safeguards, you are aware of all of the formal dispute resolution options. (If you haven’t read the procedural safeguards google it now, because it’s important!) Or you can head over to this BLOG, to learn more about how to handle tough situations at the IEP table while remaining calm.
Your first step is to make sure the teacher who isn’t following the IEP, has an actual copy of the IEP. At school supply drop off the day before school started one year, my sons teacher wasn’t even aware he HAD an IEP… You’d be surprised at how often this happens! In this case there was a turnover of staff and this detail was overlooked.
Depending on what it is that isn’t being followed in the IEP, my first step would be to send the teacher a quick email. You can say something like, “Hi Mr. Teacher, M came home and reported he didn’t receive a physical copy of the notes from Math today. I’m sure this was a mistake but since this is in his IEP, I wanted to bring it to your attention so we can make sure he gets the notes going forward. Here is the most recent copy of the IEP for easy reference! Thank you for your support at school!” Maybe forgetting the math notes was an honest mistake, maybe the teacher didn’t realize how important they were and maybe… they hadn’t actually been given a copy of the IEP. Whatever the reasoning, giving the teacher the benefit of the doubt can help protect relationships, allows the teacher to fix the mistake without reprimand (we are all human!) and ensures that by sending the email you have written documentation of the error should you need it in the future.
Maybe it makes more sense for you to have a phone conversation with the teacher. There is nothing wrong with that, but you’ll still want to follow up the conversation with an email so you have documentation for the future, just in case.If the teacher or staff member still isn’t following the IEP, move further up the chain and involve school administration. This can be the caseworker, the principal, the special education liaison or anyone else you feel may be responsive. Before you email everyone, start with the administrator who you have a positive relationship with. There are times when we can’t “just get a long” for lack of better terms, but in the times we can, I always choose to go the path of least resistance and contact the people whom I think will remedy a situation without a battle. This conversation can go something like, “Ms. Admin, On 7/6/2021 I contacted Mr. Teacher about providing a physical copy of math notes for M as it is listed in his accommodations. I also provided an additional copy of the IEP for reference. As of today, M is still not receiving a copy of the math notes. Before we call an IEP meeting, I wanted to reach out to you to try to remedy this situation. Thank you!”
Again, a phone call is fine, as long as you have a follow up email for documentation.
Next, if you still feel like the IEP is not being followed appropriately, email the entire team and request anIEP meeting. “Team, I have been in contact with Mr. Teacher and Ms. Admin, but am still concerned the IEP isn’t being followed. I’d like to request a formal IEP meeting to address this concern so we can all work together on a plan for M. I am available on XYZ dates and times.”
You are allowed to request an IEP meeting anytime you feel you need to meet with the team. If you have tried to resolve the IEP issues without progress, you should absolutely request a meeting. However, please note that if you get this far and the teacher or team is STILL struggling to follow the IEP, I would anticipate that the IEP meeting may not be a quick happy resolution meeting. This is typically when parents contact me or another advocate to come along for the meeting. If you feel like you need additional support, you can set up a free phone call HERE.
Before your IEP meeting, you will want to be prepared. You can learn more about IEP Preparation HERE, but just to keep it simple for you:
- Present levels of performance should be updated at every meeting.
- If changes will be made to the IEP, request a draft copy of changes and updated present levels to review prior to the meeting.
- Email your parent input 24 hours prior to the meeting. Need help with parent input? Go HERE.
- Decide where your bottom line is. Maybe bottom line is that this accommodation or whatever it is that isn’t being followed is a non-negotiable, that’s fine. Maybe you’re willing to compromise on whatever that thing is just a little. Going in knowing where you can give a little, allows you to feel more prepared with whatever the outcome is of the meeting.
After the meeting, it may be a good idea to schedule a follow up meeting to make sure the plan is being followed correctly and everyone is accountable to what is written in the IEP. If you decide not to schedule a follow up meeting, ask the admin to follow up with you in writing within 4-6 weeks about progress or ask the team how they will be tracking accountability going forward. Don’t just assume the meeting will fix everything, have a plan in place for who is holding everyone accountable for the plan and how that will be communicated with you.
Whatever the outcome, don’t feel pressured to agree to a change right there in the moment. You are an equal IEP team member and should be comfortable with everything that is being decided.
If the IEP STILL isn’t being followed, you will need to follow your procedural safeguards to determine which formal dispute resolution option is the best option for you.